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'Fear has slowly turned to unity and hope'

Wexford native Diane Pianca speaks of what life is like in Northern Italy, one week since the government implemented a lock-down

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Diane Pianca (née Busher) who lives in Italy with her family.

Diane Pianca (née Busher) who lives in Italy with her family.

Diane’s husband Jerry

Diane’s husband Jerry

Deserted streets near her home

Deserted streets near her home

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Diane Pianca (née Busher) who lives in Italy with her family.

A Wexford native has spoken of her experiences living under a complete lock-down with her family in Northern Italy where she now lives. A daughter of Eddie and Anne Busher, Diane Pianca is a native of Wexford town and lives in the northern province of Treviso in a small village in the foothills of the Alps, 70km north of Venice, with her Australian-born Italian husband Jerry and their three children.

Given the rapid spread of the covid-19 virus through Italy and the ever increasing death toll, it was a cause of massive concern for Diane's parents as well as her sisters Janette Kelly, Vicki Carley and Lorraine Busher-Carley all of whom still live in town. As things escalated there, Italy went into a complete lock-down and Diane has described her new reality there, with fears that it may be a situation headed for us in Ireland before long.

'The Italian government have rules in place that we can only leave our homes for three reasons,' Diane explained. 'They are work; essentials like food shopping, the chemist and certain medical appointments and of course medical emergencies. All those whose work is non essential to the public have been told to work from home or take holidays. All workers who are connected with food, petrol, banking and other essential services for the public are told to go to work, but maintain a one metre distance at all times.'

Since the lock-down was introduced, an eerie quiet hangs over usually bustling streets and people must be able to put forward a good reason as to why they are out if stopped by the authorities.

'As of Wednesday we're not permitted to walk outside our premises to just take the children or dog for a walk for example. This is to prevent people meeting each other and not maintaining the one metre distance,' Diane explained.

'When we do the leave the house by car or on foot we have to have a special form filled out stating why (and it has be for the essential reasons) and wherever possible, just one family member leaves the house. My husband has a document from work showing who he works for and where, and also where he lives just in case he is stopped by the police.'

While a frightening situation, as most developments with coronavirus have been, Diane says that she and her family are doing their best to adapt.

'This is the new normal for us and it has to be done to contain this awful virus,' she said. 'My children have homework sent each week from their teachers. Every morning I get up and home school and try to keep the children in a normal routine. Every now and again we stop for a break and take our dog into the garden. I have the music playing in the house and we talk about when they will return to school and see their friends. I have introduced my children to making an altar at home as I remember doing this as a child in Wexford. They've placed holy cards, prayers, angels and flowers from our garden over the world map.'

Over the weekend, videos have been circulating online of the Italian resilience in the face of this devastating crisis. Footage of people in isolation emerging onto their balconies and singing together has been beamed out to the world.

'The fear that gripped Italy at the start of the lock-down has slowly turned to unity and hope,' Diane said. 'Today we are all opening our windows once again - a sign of 'ANDRÀ' TUTTO BENE! - WE WILL BE FINE!'. I am very proud to live in Italy and I am very proud to stand next to my husband and children and look at the actions of my adopted country. In turn, I am a very proud Irish woman, knowing that my own beloved country is now taking measures to protect Irish citizens.'

While living in difficult circumstances, Diane's message from Italy is a positive one. She is firm in the assertion that whatever comes to us here in her home country of Ireland, we will prevail and overcome.

'Yes, here in Italy we are on lock-down and in Ireland measures are beginning to take place, but this is essential for our well-being and to take pressure off the wonderful doctors and nurses and the whole health system,' she said. 'The message from the Italian government is: "Stay at home and stay calm". We follow the rules and do not panic. I'm out in my garden every day and I wave to my neighbours from over the fence. I listen to South East Radio from home and read the Irish newspapers every day to keep in touch with home.'

'While I stay updated about the coronavirus, I do not read everything online as this can be overwhelming and create panic. My family and I stay positive by watching light hearted programmes and doing fun family activities together. I focus on the day when my husband and I will be taking our three beautiful children to see their mum's home for the first time. For now we have to make sacrifices to our normal routine. We have to be responsible, respect and follow all the rules, be positive, have hope and faith and we will get through this. God bless and see you soon Wexford,'

Enniscorthy Guardian